Who are the “Beinoniím”?  A fraction of 1%?

We learn in Gemara Rosh Hashnah (16b 12):

אָמַר רַבִּי כְּרוּסְפָּדַאי אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: שְׁלֹשָׁה סְפָרִים נִפְתָּחִין בְּרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה, אֶחָד שֶׁל רְשָׁעִים גְּמוּרִין, וְאֶחָד שֶׁל צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִין, וְאֶחָד שֶׁל בֵּינוֹנִיִּים. צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִין — נִכְתָּבִין וְנֶחְתָּמִין לְאַלְתַּר לְחַיִּים, רְשָׁעִים גְּמוּרִין — נִכְתָּבִין וְנֶחְתָּמִין לְאַלְתַּר לְמִיתָה, בֵּינוֹנִיִּים — תְּלוּיִין וְעוֹמְדִין מֵרֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד יוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים, זָכוּ — נִכְתָּבִין לְחַיִּים, לֹא זָכוּ — נִכְתָּבִין לְמִיתָה..

“Rabbi Kruspedai said that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Three books are opened on Rosh HaShana before the Holy One, Blessed be He: One of wholly wicked people, (רשעים) and one of wholly righteous people,(צדיקים) and one of middling people whose good and bad deeds are equally balanced. (בינונים) Wholly righteous people are immediately written and sealed for life; wholly wicked people are immediately written and sealed for death; and middling people are left with their judgment suspended from Rosh HaShana until Yom Kippur, their fate remaining undecided. If they merit, through the good deeds and mitzvot that they perform during this period, they are written for life; if they do not merit, they are written for death.”

The statement by Rabbi Kruspedai has been looked into by many commentators over the 1800 years or so since it has been written, and many deep interpretations can be found on the subject.

My query relates to a “technical” issue… 

If, as it seems from the Tosafot, the medieval commentaries on the Talmud, the “Middling people”, the “beinoniim”, are those who’s good and bad deeds are equally balanced, this group could only represent a fraction of one percent of all of us. As statistically the probability of anybody coming into Rosh Hashana with exactly the same number of good and bad actions – must be almost non-existent.

However, one of the early commentators, the Meiri (in his Chibur Hateshuvah), and much later HaGaon Rav Yitzchak Hutner (Pachad Yitzchak), suggest that Rabbi Kruspedai does not view the “beinoni” as one who is literally caught in the limbo of a formal numerical stalemate between mitzvot and aveirot. For if that were the case, it would presumably be an exceedingly rare occurrence, yet the Rambam (Hilchot Teshuvah 3:4) exhorts us all to view ourselves as “beinonim” throughout the ten days of repentance and beyond. Rather, Rabbi Kruspedai, and the Rambam understand the judgment of Rosh Hashanah to be a function not only of our past performance but also of our direction for the future. Therefore, the “beinoni” represents all those who are wavering or feel conflicted about their religious arc and trajectory. Are we progressing closer towards Hashem or drifting further away? Is our religious commitment intensifying or subsiding? The only mitzvah which can effectively address and impact this aspect of our lives is the introspective soul bearing process of teshuvah, repentance, and that is why teshuvah is the only avenue available to the “beinoni”, (And not just, “doing one more good deed” as would be the case if we were “counting”…)

Best wishes and Gmar Chatima Tovah

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld